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COLUMN: Peace of mind: Is power of attorney in place?

Legal-Ease by Roger Greenwood

You may be a baby-boomer caring for aging parents, and need to act on their behalf concerning finances or other legal matters. You may be a 20-something who has just landed his or her first job out of college – thinking for the first time of your own financial security. Or perhaps you are one of the five million Canadians now over the age of 65, and want peace of mind concerning your finances in the years ahead.

Having an enduring power of attorney in place will give you that peace of mind.

At any moment, any one of us could become incapacitated – unable to make decisions for our own best interests. A sudden accident or illness can render us or those we love in need of a trusted hand to make our financial and legal decisions.

An enduring power of attorney allows you to appoint someone of your choosing to handle your financial and legal affairs in the event that you can no longer handle such affairs yourself.

When is the best time to draft an enduring power of attorney?

It is crucial that you don’t delay. Once you have lost your mental capacity, you are no longer able to create an enduring power of attorney. Your loved ones must then enter into a lengthy, emotionally draining, and expensive court process known as “committeeship”. Worst yet, you will have lost all control over who will control your finances and legal matters; it will be in the hands of the Court.

What happens if I regain my mental capacity? Are my financial and legal matters forever in the control of whomever I’ve appointed?

An enduring power of attorney is typically drafted so that while you are mentally capable you remain in control of your own financial and legal obligations. Should you lose mental capacity, then the enduring power of attorney is in place so that your finances are looked after by a chosen, trusted friend or family member.

What is the first step in adding an enduring power of attorney to my estate plan?

Contact a lawyer and tell him or her you need an enduring power of attorney. After a brief meeting discussing your individual needs and desires, your lawyer will set to work securing your financial future.

Roger Greenwood is a partner with RDM Lawyers LLP.  He practices in the areas of business law, real estate, and estate planning. Questions or comments about this article can be sent to legalease@abbynews.com.

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